Chapter V

Ann sat next to Maxine's bed for most of the night watching the actress toss and turn, wondering what nightmare played behind the closed eyelids. She didn't feel tired, only numb, her mind trying to fight against bitter memories. She slowly rubbed her forehead, shaking her head and praying silently. "If you are out there, please let me be strong enough. I promise this time I won't fail." Memories of her younger self watching over the convulsing body of her mother flashed in front of her eyes, then she shook her head and got up to stretch. Morning activities could be heard in the corridor and Ann let go of a long sigh. Another day would bring a different challenge with Maxine, but she had made it through the night and was now convinced that the tall woman needed her help, but would she accept it, was the question Ann kept on asking herself. As she had done many times that night she bathed Maxine's sweaty forehead with a cold cloth and wrung it into the small bucket next to the bed. The actress now lay quietly on her back, her long hair laying tangled on the pillow, and her face was as pale as the walls surrounding her.

A quiet knock at the door made Ann jump. She silently skipped across the wooden floor and opened the door. As she stepped into the corridor a tray was handed to her.

"Mother Clarence asked for some food to be brought up to you and your patient." Sister Joan smiled at Ann, lightly squeezing Ann's arm to show her support, but withdrew her hand almost immediately. Displays of affection were rare at the convent. The sisters valued their privacy and believed that a constant physical distance between them was a sign of respect and spiritual wit, but Sister Joan and Sister Ann had taken the veil at the same time and had known each other for a few years. "How is she doing?"

"If I can keep her straight today, there might be something I can do for her."

"If anyone can do it, you can." Sister Joan smiled warmly. "I should get going, mass should start very soon. Are you coming?"

Ann sighed. "No, I think I should stay with her."

"Very well." Sister Joan gave one last supportive smile and walked away. Ann watched as her black-dressed form walked to the end of the corridor and disappeared. Her reverie was broken by a ragged voice calling from inside.

"Sister Ann?" Ann reentered the room, closing the door behind her. "I'm thirsty."

Ann nodded and put the tray onto the corner table, pouring fresh water into a paper cup. She realized that there were no sharp objects on the tray-everything that could be used as a weapon had been removed and replaced by its plastic equivalent. She handed Maxine the cup and sat back on her chair.

"Are they scared I'm going to kill myself?"

"Something like that," replied Ann, surprised that Maxine would even realize such a thing in the state she was in.

"Don't be surprised sister, this isn't my first rehab. Yours is a vacation compared to the crap I had to go through in other places." Maxine finished her drink and handed the cup back to Ann.

"They brought some food also. You probably don't feel up to it, but you have to eat something." The young nun poured milk into the bowl of oatmeal on the tray and handed it to Maxine who took it without any argument. "We have to talk."

Maxine's eye lashes fluttered and her green eyes focused on Ann. "Hit me with it."

Ann was taken back by the expression. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, go ahead and explain it me." Maxine smiled. "You don't go out much do you?"

Ann's eyes bored into Maxine's and she chose to ignore the teasing remark. "After what happened yesterday you are on dangerous ground. I'm willing to give you another chance, but I make the rules." Ann stopped and searched Maxine's face for any signs of objection. "What I say goes, no questions, no arguments. Someone will be with you at all times for the next two weeks. I expect you to behave yourself and show respect to everyone in this convent. Is that understood?" Maxine's eyes were now fixed on a distant point in the room. She was obviously trying to make a decision, but Ann was unwilling to give her much time. "I need a decision from you now. Those are the rules, no bending them, no getting away from them."

"You are asking for me to give up any kind of control to you and your kind for the next two weeks," spat Maxine sarcastically.

"Yes and the choice is yours." Ann waited for what seemed hours for an answer and finally stood up slowly. "I'll have your brother called to pick you up. It was nice meeting you Miss Johnston." Ann sighed heavily. "I think you can get clean, but there is nothing I can do for you if you are unwilling to help." She straightened her gown and walked to the door, hoping for a word from the actress, but the silence remained and she opened the door and stepped out.

Maxine watched the door close behind Ann as she fought with the biggest decision of her life. She knew that running after the nun and agreeing to her rules would force her to give total control of herself to another human being for the next two weeks. A slight feeling of hope and maybe a brighter future flashed in front of her eyes and she suddenly stood up, catching herself against the wall at the sudden head rush, but ignoring it and rushing after Sister Ann. She opened the door in a hurry and barely had time to catch a glimpse of the nun turning at the end of the corridor. "Sister Ann," she called in a ragged voice which barely projected. The weakness of her body stopped her from running and she held herself against the wall and called again this time louder, "Sister Ann."

Ann heard the faint voice and turned back on her steps, caught a glimpse of Maxine holding herself against the wall, she hurried back to her. She stopped a few feet away, knowing that the next step had to come from the actress.

Maxine looked at Ann and tried to steady herself on her shaky legs. "I didn't give you an answer to your question." She took a deep breath and looked straight into Ann's eyes. " I agree."

"To everything I said earlier?" asked Ann, needing to know the actress knew what she was getting herself into.

Maxine sighed. "Yes, I'll do as told."

Ann repressed a sigh of relief. "Then we have a deal." She extended her hand to Maxine to seal the pact. The tall woman looked at the small hand for a few moments before putting her larger one in it and shaking it.

"Yes we have a deal." Maxine was surprised by the strength coming from the nun's handshake. She withdrew her hand slowly. "What now?" she questioned.

"You get dressed, and I'll take you downstairs for a proper breakfast." She gently helped Maxine back into her room. "I know you are still feeling the effects of withdrawal, but I believe that moving around will help you. If it becomes too much I want you to say so."

"All right," answered Maxine, she sat down on her bed.

"Now, I can't stop working because of you, and you are not to stay by your self, so you are going to give me a hand."

Maxine picked up a pair of Jeans and a sweatshirt form her bag and turned to Ann. "Can I grab a quick shower before you make me slave away." Ann nodded and walked out with Maxine. "So, what do nuns do during the day beside pray?" Maxine's tone of voice held no sarcasm and she seemed to be honestly interested.

"Taking the veil doesn't make you dead to society Miss Johnston," replied Ann dryly.

"It was an honest question." Maxine stopped in her tracks and turned toward Ann. The morning sunrays coming through the windows briefly blinded her and she quickly protected her eyes with her hand. "Damn it's bright...sorry," she apologized. "I know I have a bad mouth." She blinked a few times and resumed her slow walk toward the bathroom.

"I'm sorry for giving you a sharp answer." Ann stopped in front of the bathroom door. "Why don't you go clean up, we'll talk when you come out." She opened the door, letting Maxine in. "I'm sorry, but I have to keep the door somewhat open," she said apologizing and feeling a little embarrassed, but knowing that those precautions were in place because Maxine had broken her trust the day before.

Maxine fought against the need to argue. "Fine," she sighed. "But no peeking," she joked to lighten the mood.

Ann smiled and stepped outside, wanting to give the actress a little privacy. A ray of hope slowly crept through her heart and the smile on her face grew bigger.

Go to chapter VI

copyright(c)malaurie barber 2001

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